11th September 2017 – Nicholas Pilfold, San Diego Zoo Global

Nicholas PilfoldDr. Nicholas Pilfold is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Institute of Conservation Research for San Diego Zoo Global. Nicholas is a large carnivore biologist focused mainly on bear species, but his research also extends to large cats.

Nicholas leads and collaborates on projects for four large carnivore species: polar bears, African leopards, Andean bears, and giant pandas. Nicholas’ research is focused on several themes within spatial and population ecology. His work includes assessment of diet and foraging patterns, reproductive and mating behavior, human-carnivore conflict resolution, as well as understanding the role a changing climate has on large carnivore persistence. Nicholas is interested in identifying broad ecological patterns useful to the conservation of all large carnivores.

Nicholas earned his bachelor’s degree in Life Sciences from the University of British Columbia and his doctorate in Ecology at the University of Alberta. His interest in large carnivore research was initially spurred while volunteering on small wildlife reserves in South Africa. Prior to joining San Diego Zoo Global, Nicholas worked with researchers at the University of Alberta and Environment and Climate Change Canada.



10th July 2017 – Robyn Womack, University of Glasgow

Robyn WomackHi BioTweeps! My name is Robyn and I am a twenty-something pint-sized zoology fanatic from the Isle of Wight, UK.

Currently, I am in my second year as a PhD student at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, investigating biological rhythms of wild birds (or otherwise, how birds “tick”). I spend a good portion of my time during the spring field season out in the wild forests near Loch Lomond working within a nest box system, and the other half in the lab doing genetic analyses. My research questions span a wide range of topics, from disease ecology and avian health to urban ecology and chronobiology (clock biology) – with the overarching theme of environmental factors influencing clocks in the wild.

Although my research focus is on birds, I have a broad interest in all things zoology. Back in 2014, I finished my BSc Zoology at Aberystwyth University in Wales, and since then I have experienced a variety of zoological roles such as research field assistant positions, zoo-keeping and volunteering in conservation. I’ve also experienced some non-zoological roles, such as working in cell culture and being part of an Athena SWAN self-assessment team promoting women in STEM subjects – something I feel passionate about!

I am super excited to be taking on BioTweeps this month as I am a strong believer that science, particularly biology, is awesome. And as biologists, we definitely ought to shout about it some more.

You can find more about me on my personal website http://www.robynwomack.com , or over on Twitter @robynjwomack .

6th June 2016 – Olivia Spencer, Plymouth University

Olivia SpencerI’m an MSc student at Plymouth University (UK) studying marine science. This represents something of a sea change in my career plans; my undergraduate degree was in Zoology and focused on terrestrial species, communities and their biology. Like many others who graduated in the recession I found it was a tough and overcrowded job market, and after several volunteering stints I decided to change tack and go back to university – a decision I’ve never regretted! My academic background has led to diverse research interests both terrestrial and marine, and I’m currently studying the effects membership of the European Union has had on marine environmental quality and policy in its member states for my dissertation project. I’m also very interested in marine climate change and will hopefully be joining a research training transect studying this topic in November.

This week I’m hoping to spark some discussions. I’ll talk a little about current marine environmental issues, employability, and career paths. I tweet about all things marine over at @netofwonder if you would like to follow me after the week.

30th May 2016 – Sally Faulkner, Queen Mary University

Sally FaulknerI spent most of my twenties, running round the world, testing my parents sanity to the brink with harebrained hippy ideas and avoiding any sort of responsibilities. All of a sudden reality hit home – I don’t remember the impact – all I knew I was suddenly applying for university, aged 30 3/4. I haven’t actually left university since. I did my undergraduate degree in Zoology, a masters in Primatology, and I am currently in my 2nd (maybe…they all seem to merge into one when you don’t have a summer holiday) year of my 4 year PhD. I have been on a steep learning curve over the last 6 years. I had never really used computers before, let alone opened an excel spread sheet and now I spend my days coding spatial models and actually understanding it – mostly. I was very lucky to be able to spend three seasons (May to August) living and working in the Indonesian tropics – mostly chasing small, elusive, nocturnal primates and trying to avoid reticulated pythons and bird eating spiders. It was my first real scientist job, and I got a thrill every time I was introduced to the students as the tarsier scientist.  But thats all behind me now, I am now a computer scientist and people send me data that they have collected whilst avoiding near death experiences in dangerous places. I use a method called geographic profiling. It is a technique commonly used in criminology to locate serial killers, arsonists and rapists. We are applying this technique to biological data sets – sources of invasive species,  disease outbreaks, animal roosts (for example: small, elusive nocturnal primates) to name a few. It has also been used to locate and identify Banksy from the location of his art.

Follow me @Tarsiussallius

August 31st 2015 – Richard Facey, Natural Resources Wales & Cardiff University

Rich FaceyI was the sort of child that was happiest looking at birds and bugs, collecting shells, rearing tadpoles and caterpillars, and generally being muddy.  Nothing much has changed in adulthood.

I have worked in conservation for approximately the last 13 years, having graduated in Zoology in 2002. Currently I work part-time as a Conservation Officer for Natural Resources Wales. Working in South Wales, in this role I look after and get to explore some of the best habitats Wales and the UK has to offer. My patch covers protected sites on islands, lakes, rivers, estuaries, extensive grasslands and woodlands, as well as a host geological sites. The rest of the time I am a part-time postgraduate student.

My research interests are predominately focused on how organisms adapt to changing environments – be that from climate change or urban expansion. In 2013 I enrolled as part-time post graduate student at Cardiff University. My thesis examines the impact of local weather variation on the seasonal fecundity of swallows Hirundo rustica and the decisions they make to overcome those impacts. It is based largely on data which I have gathered in my free time since 2006. I am supervised by Drs Rob Thomas (@RobThomas14 ) and Ian Vaughan (yet to be tempted onto twitter).

I’ll be tweeting about my research, occasionally about my day job and generally about natural history. If you enjoy my week then you can find more of the same at @faceyrj.

July 13th 2015 – Phil Cox, University of York

Philip CoxI am a lecturer at the University of York where I am member of both the Hull York Medical School and the Department of Archaeology (although really I’m a zoologist!). From my PhD onwards, I’ve worked on a wide variety of mammals spanning most of the mammalian family tree, but recently my research has focused down to one group that I find particularly fascinating – the rodents. To me, rodents are especially worthy of study because of their huge success in evolutionary terms (they are the largest group of mammals by a long chalk) and because of their highly derived and specialised feeding system.

Much of my research has concentrated on understanding the biomechanics of feeding in different rodents, extant and extinct. This is an exciting area of research at the boundary of biology and physics. As a dyed-in-the-wool life scientist, I never imagined my research would include physics, but it’s a fascinating field of research to be in. I use complex bioengineering techniques to virtually model rodent skulls and understand how they perform during feeding. This has allowed me to see how living rodent species are specialised for different activities, and to make predictions about the ecology of extinct rodents.

I have also been involved in the development of contrast-enhanced microCT – a scanning technique that uses iodine staining to enable the visualisation of soft tissues with microCT. I have used contrast-enhanced scans to describe the chewing muscles of rodents and reconstruct them in 3D. This technique is gathering quite a community of users now and we’re hoping it will become a standard methodology in morphological sciences.

During my week on biotweeps, I will be tweeting about rodents – why they are so successful as a group and why they are so interesting from a research perspective. I will also tweet about the computer modelling and contrast-enhanced scanning that I am currently doing, with lots of exciting images and reconstructions. If you want to know more about my research, visit my website www.drphilcox.com or follow me at @drphilcox .

January 26th, 2015 – Viola Ross-Smith, British Trust for Ornithology

Viola Ross-SmithI’m a post-doctoral ecologist with a passion for seabirds. I studied Zoology at Cambridge before completing my PhD on gulls at Cardiff, during which I spent several months each year on the small Welsh island of Flat Holm and fell in love with island life. Since this time, I’ve become a bit of an island bagger and been lucky enough to work on several remote and spectacular British islands.

I joined the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) in late 2010, as a research ecologist in the Wetland and Marine Team. My most exciting work has involved tracking seabirds, primarily Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and looking at how they interact with wind farms. My colleagues and I have deployed state-of-the-art GPS tags to unpick the fine details of where and when these birds travel and how they use their environment. You can see a summary of some of this work in this feature I recorded for the BBC.

I also love communicating science and now work almost half-time as science communications officer at BTO. I regularly do radio and TV interviews and write up features for our website and popular publications. I am a licensed bird ringer and this sometimes comes in handy when combining my two roles as you can see from this piece featuring the now famous Tesco Pied Wagtail! Most of my communications time is spent managing our social media accounts (including @_BTO) where I focus on finding great bird and wildlife-related science stories, but I also get a lot out of engaging with our really active Twitter community of 35,000+ followers. I am also a committee member of, and manage social media for, the Seabird group (@TheSeabirdGroup), a registered charity founded in 1966 to promote and help coordinate the study and conservation of seabirds. When I’m not working or tweeting, I might well be found listening to BBC 6 Music with my nose buried in a novel. You can find me @viola_rs.